STEPHENVILLE — Brent Fudge did not want to stand in front of a math class.
That’s changed now, and Brent is among millions of educators being honored in concert with World Teachers’ Day, Oct. 5.
In recognition of the global celebration, blue lights will shine tonight on all Texas A&M University System campuses (the iconic smokestack at Tarleton), thanking teachers for their leadership during a worldwide pandemic and their vision for the future. The A&M System’s 11 universities produce more fully certified teachers than any other university system in the state.
To hear Brent tell it, he “never would have thought to become a teacher.” In fact, when pressed about his determination to avoid a classroom career, he cites “The Hound of Heaven,” a poem by Frances Thomas.
“ … I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways.
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears.”
It wasn’t really teaching Brent was running from.
“I was avoiding the pursuit of Christ in my life. Yet he trained me for what I was to be as I fled him. It is safe to say, Christ is the only reason I became a teacher because of the things I was taught in my relationship with him in the events of my life.”
Brent gained instructional experience at a previous job, where he was assigned training duties.
“I started off working in different types of jobs, which opened me up and basically allowed me to go from an introvert to a practicing extrovert,” he said. “I enjoyed training and helping people and giving them the tools to be successful.
“It was that personal interaction between people that was exciting. It was fun for me.”
That started him on the certification path in both math and science at the elementary school level. He currently teaches fourth-grade math at Lake Air Montessori Magnet School in the Waco Independent School District.
He enrolled at McLennan Community College, then transferred to Tarleton and took classes on the MCC campus in Waco. “It was the program that had an education plan I could move toward. As I went through the program at MCC through Tarleton, I finally decided to go with math.”
And he’s good at it.
In the 2019-2020 school year, Brent was named WISD First Year Teacher of the Year.
“I try to keep learning from being boring,” he said. “I have to teach my students to interact with the content, of course, but also to interact with each other.”
As with educators everywhere, the pandemic has brought its own challenges. Prior to struggles wrought by COVID-19, Brent taught both math and science to fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.
“Seeing the disconnect between online students versus in-person students has been interesting,” he said. “To alleviate this, I dive into the Teaching Management System, which includes almost constant parent contact, lesson creation via video and YouTube uploads, digitally interactive lessons, analyzing student work in person and online, and creating digital forms to allow students to receive immediate grading and responses to their submitted works.
“The biggest challenge for me is getting parents to be co-teachers. It’s you and the parents teaming up. At the beginning of the year I try to make it clear what my expectations are for students and parents.”
Along with the challenges come the rewards of the profession.
“It’s great being able to connect with kids. Not only teaching them content, but also how to manage themselves and help them learn the skills to become a grown-up.
“How to organize and plan, how to look at 10 assignments and pick out the most effective order to do them. That teaches critical thinking skills the students will need, and it translates to the content as well. You have to connect with them as to why it matters. To make it personal for each of them.”
Tarleton State University is part of a Texas A&M University System statewide campaign that encourages teaching as a career. The campaign, “We Teach Texas,” affirms the role of teachers and notes that “every success starts in a classroom.”
About World Teachers’ Day
World Teachers’ Day was conceived in 1994 by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It celebrates the teaching profession worldwide, takes stock of achievements and draws attention to the voices of teachers who are at the heart of efforts to attain the global education target of leaving no one behind.
This year’s theme is “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future.”